Posted by: minnow | January 25, 2012


Just before the awards season began I tried to see a variety of movies I thought might be contenders (as well as several others).  One of the most interesting is, Beginners, starring Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGragor, Melanie Laurent, and Cosmo the dog.  It was directed by Mike Mills and loosely based on the director’s own father.  Plummer walked away with the Critic’s Choice Award for best supporting actor, though I’d be hard pressed to say his was only a supporting role, and he’s been nominated for an Oscar.  Plummer, known best in my family as Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, plays the storyteller’s father who at 70, after his wife of 45 years passed away, came out to the rest of his family and friends as gay.  His wife we learn knew all along.

Told from the point of view of Oliver, the son, played by Ewan McGragor, Beginners consists of a series of flashbacks reflecting on the life and death of Hal, Oliver’s father.  Melanie Laurent plays Anna, a young woman Oliver meets soon after his Father’s death.  The flashback vignettes are intertwined with Oliver’s current situation as he works to resolve his feelings about his father, his childhood, Anna, and what it means to love someone.

I do not understand Beginners‘ R rating.  Having seen The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo which also received an R rating and War Horse and The Rise of the Planet of the Apes which both were rated PG-13 despite images of extreme violence I am confused.  Are scenes of consensual intimacy seriously equated with images of rape and torture while flying body parts, massive killing, panoramas of death, and war torn landscapes are thought to be easily understood by (or at least not “damaging” to the psyche of) young teens?  Our rating system is out of whack when language children hear every day in public school causes a movie to have the same rating as extreme acts of violence.  When a man kisses a man and the movie receives the same rating as a film which depicts the brutal rape of both a man and a woman, as well as torture and photographs of murder victims we need a new system for rating movies. Period.

I highly recommend Beginners. The characters show depth.  The subject matter is timely.  And, the cinematography fits the message.  Beginners is a well made film which addresses difficult topics with both sensitivity and humor.  It is simple in its telling and complex in its story.  Beginners is honest.  And honesty in film should be celebrated.

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